Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has its origins in Algeria but most recently has focused on Mali. This past week has seen a marked increase in its rhetoric against the Algerian government. AQIM is now urging the Algerian municipal guards to defect.
This shift in focus from Mali to Algeria may be a response to the recent setbacks it suffered as France stepped into the Malian situation with force enough to result is a serious AQIM retreat.
Why do we care?
West Point's Center on Terrorism indicates that AQIM's principle objectives includes ridding North Africa of western influence, overthrowing apostate "unbeliever" governments (including Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia), and installing fundamentalist regimes based on Islamic law. None of this amounts to a threat against the United States, but there was a distinct shift in the organization after 9/11, when AQIM (previously known as the Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. A more official merger ocurred in 2006 when 2006 when Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the official merger between al-Qa`ida and GSPC.
Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, put AQIM's threat to the U.S. on a par with the dangers Ameria faces from Afghanistan. Recently, European security forces have arrested several AQIM members as part of plots against European targets.
This is an indicates AQIM's widening its target selection, and may auger a coming focus on the U.S. as well.